Clinical research evidence of cupping therapy in China: A systematic literature review

Center for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China.
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.02). 11/2010; 10(1):70. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-10-70
Source: PubMed


Though cupping therapy has been used in China for thousands of years, there has been no systematic summary of clinical research on it.This review is to evaluate the therapeutic effect of cupping therapy using evidence-based approach based on all available clinical studies.
We included all clinical studies on cupping therapy for all kinds of diseases. We searched six electronic databases, all searches ended in December 2008. We extracted data on the type of cupping and type of diseases treated.
550 clinical studies were identified published between 1959 and 2008, including 73 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 22 clinical controlled trials, 373 case series, and 82 case reports. Number of RCTs obviously increased during past decades, but the quality of the RCTs was generally poor according to the risk of bias of the Cochrane standard for important outcome within each trials. The diseases in which cupping was commonly employed included pain conditions, herpes zoster, cough or asthma, etc. Wet cupping was used in majority studies, followed by retained cupping, moving cupping, medicinal cupping, etc. 38 studies used combination of two types of cupping therapies. No serious adverse effects were reported in the studies.
According to the above results, quality and quantity of RCTs on cupping therapy appears to be improved during the past 50 years in China, and majority of studies show potential benefit on pain conditions, herpes zoster and other diseases. However, further rigorous designed trials in relevant conditions are warranted to support their use in practice.

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    • "The mechanism of cupping therapy is not clear, but some researchers suggest that placement of cups on selected acupoints on the skin produces hyperemia or hemostasis, which results in a therapeutic effect.9, 10 "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Wet cupping is a traditional bloodletting method recommended for controlling of respiratory disease complications. This study aimed to compare the efficacy of wet cupping vs. venesection on arterial O2 saturation level of smokers. Methods: This is a randomized controlled clinical trial which started with simple sampling of smokers. After administering spirometery, participants (N = 110 male smokers) with positive pulmonary function test (PFT), who manifested Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups. The two groups were assessed in terms of demographic data, rate of hemoglobin (Hb), hematocrit (Hct), and arterial O2 saturation. Then, the intervention participants underwent wet cupping whereas venesection was performed on the control participants. At four stages after the two treatments, pulse oximetery was performed. Data was analyzed using SPSS (Version 17). Results: Result shows that mean arterial O2 sat level increased at three stages, namely before, immediately after, and 6 and 12 hrs after these two treatments (p ≤ 0.001). This indicates that wet cupping and venesection alike were effective on O2 sat level in the two groups, but the increasing pattern was maintained 12 hrs afterward only in those participants who had received wet cupping (p ≤ 0.001). Moreover, the results of repeated measure ANOVA between the two groups at the four stages showed that there were significant differences between the means of O2 saturation level at the 6- and 12-hrs stages (F = 66.92, p ≤ 0.001). Conclusion: Wet cupping caused a continued O2 saturation in the intervention group even up to 12 hrs afterward. Participants expressed liveliness and improved respiration after wet cupping. Therefore, wet cupping is recommended for promoting the health of cigarette smokers.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences Online
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    • "lower back pain [6], carpal tunnel syndrome [7], brachialgia paresthetica nocturna [8], cancer pain [9] and chronic neck pain [10-12]. In China Cupping is widely used and two systematic reviews were recently published about the results [13,14]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Cupping is used in various traditional medicine forms to relieve pain in musculoskeletal diseases. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of cupping in relieving the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis (OA). In a two-group, randomized controlled exploratory pilot study patients with a clinically and radiological confirmed knee OA (Kellgren-Lawrence Grading Scale: 2-4) and a pain intensity > 40 mm on a 100 mm visual analogue scale (VAS) were included. 40 Patients were randomized to either 8 sessions of pulsatile dry cupping within 4 weeks or no intervention (control). Paracetamol was allowed on demand for both groups. Outcomes were the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis (WOMAC) score, the pain intensity on a VAS (0 mm = no pain to 100 mm = maximum intensity) and Quality of Life (SF-36) 4 and 12 weeks after randomization. Use of Paracetamol was documented within the 4-week treatment period. Analyses were performed by analysis of covariance adjusting for the baseline value for each outcome. 21 patients were allocated to the cupping group (5 male; mean age 68 ± SD 7.2) and 19 to the control group (8 male; 69 ± 6.8). After 4 weeks the WOMAC global score improved significantly more in the cupping group with a mean of 27.7 (95% confidence interval 22.1; 33.3) compared to 42.2 (36.3; 48.1) in the control group (p = 0.001). After 12 weeks the WOMAC global score were still significantly different in favor for cupping (31.0 (24.9; 37.2) vs. 40.8 (34.4; 47.3) p = 0.032), however the WOMAC subscores for pain and stiffness were not significant anymore. Significantly better outcomes in the cupping group were also observed for pain intensity on VAS and for the SF-36 Physical Component Scale compared to the control group after 4 and 12 weeks. No significant difference was observed for the SF-36 Mental Component Scale and the total number of consumed Paracetamol tablets between both groups (mean 9.1, SD ± 20.0 vs. 11.5 ± 15.9). In this exploratory study dry cupping with a pulsatile cupping device relieved symptoms of knee OA compared to no intervention. Further studies comparing cupping with active treatments are needed. Trial registration Identifier: NCT01057043
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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    • "Based on our previous review [3], an updated search of publications was performed using China Network Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) (2009 through 2010), Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP) (2009 through 2010), Chinese Biomedical Database (CBM) (2009 through 2010), Wanfang Database (2009 through 2010), PubMed (1966 through 2010), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, 1800 through 2010). All searches ended at December 2010. "
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    ABSTRACT: Since 1950, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cupping therapy has been applied as a formal modality in hospitals throughout China and elsewhere in the world. Based on a previous systematic literature review of clinical studies on cupping therapy, this study presents a thorough review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the therapeutic effect of cupping therapy. Six databases were searched for articles published through 2010. RCTs on cupping therapy for various diseases were included. Studies on cupping therapy combined with other TCM treatments versus non-TCM therapies were excluded. 135 RCTs published from 1992 through 2010 were identified. The studies were generally of low methodological quality. Diseases for which cupping therapy was commonly applied were herpes zoster, facial paralysis (Bell palsy), cough and dyspnea, acne, lumbar disc herniation, and cervical spondylosis. Wet cupping was used in most trials, followed by retained cupping, moving cupping, and flash cupping. Meta-analysis showed cupping therapy combined with other TCM treatments was significantly superior to other treatments alone in increasing the number of cured patients with herpes zoster, facial paralysis, acne, and cervical spondylosis. No serious adverse effects were reported in the trials. Numerous RCTs on cupping therapy have been conducted and published during the past decades. This review showed that cupping has potential effect in the treatment of herpes zoster and other specific conditions. However, further rigorously designed trials on its use for other conditions are warranted.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2012 · PLoS ONE
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